Davies: EU Fisheries policy reform achieved

Europe’s common fisheries policy is set for radical reform after negotiators for EU governments and the European Parliament reached agreement in Brussels at 03.00 this morning.

Supporters of the deal claim that it paves the way for rebuilding Europe’s depleted fish stocks and curbing the discard of millions of tonnes of fish each year.

British representatives have played a key role in securing the reform.  They say that it demonstrates how EU policies can be changed for the better.

An obligation to land all pelagic fish, such as mackerel, will commence from 1 January 2015.  Other reforms, which must yet be formally approved by ministers and MEPs, will be phased in over subsequent years.

Long term management plans are to be prepared for every fishery with the aim of increasing fish numbers above the maximum sustainable yield.

Fishermen will have a new role in determining practices appropriate to local conditions as micro-management from Brussels is reduced.

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, secretary of the cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group in the European Parliament, described the deal as a major step forward that would promote sustainable fishing practices. 

He said: “Our treatment of Europe’s seas has been a disgrace.  Overfishing has destroyed the jobs of tens of thousands of fishermen and left us dependent on imports for more than half the fish we eat.

“But we have learnt lessons.  Across Europe there is a strong desire now to listen to the scientists, rebuild fish stocks, cut discards, and give our fishing industry a better future. 

“This is not a perfect deal but it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Davies praised the work of the European Parliament’s rapporteur, German MEP Ulrike Rodust, and Britain’s fisheries minister Richard Benyon, who he said had played a vital role in promoting the reform.

NOTE TO EDITORS

KEY POINTS OF THE NEW EU COMMON FISHERIES POLICY 

1.  A legally-binding objective to rebuild fish stocks by 2020.

In setting annual quotas Fisheries Ministers have repeatedly exceeded the scientific recommendations, leading to a decline in stocks.  The new policy includes a legally binding target to end over fishing (FMSY) by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020, for all stocks.  Europe’s fish stocks could increase by 15 million tonnes.

2.  Legal obligation to land fish caught and reduce discards

Fishermen have not been allowed to land fish above quota, and so have discarded perfectly edible fish as well as those not commercially valuable (1.7 million tonnes pa).  The new policy reverses the procedure.  Starting in pelagic fisheries from 2015, fishermen will by 2019 have a legal obligation to land 95% of all fish caught.  In order to not to waste quota fishermen will be encouraged to make use of more selective gear.

3. Long term management plans

A long term management plan will be prepared for every fishery in accord with scientific advice and taking account of the unique circumstances.  The aim will be to restore and maintain fish stocks above levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yields.  Plans may include conservation measures for particular species.

4. Regionalisation

Micro-management from Brussels will be reduced.  Day to day decisions about the running of particular fisheries, and conservation measures needed, will increasingly be taken by regional advisory councils including fishermen and scientists from all the countries involved in the fishery.  This was a priority for the UK Government.

5.  Sustainable fishing partnerships

European vessels fishing overseas have been accused of exploiting stocks and denying indigenous people access to local food supplies.  The new policy insists that future fisheries agreements with third countries must respect democratic principles and human rights.

6. Strengthening environmental protection

The new policy requires the Common Fisheries Policy, for the first time, to support the EU’s environmental policies and objectives, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Birds Directive, and Habitats Directive.

7. Reducing over-capacity

Europe has had too many boats chasing too few fish.  The new policy emphasises the need for Member States to align their fishing fleet capacity with available fishing opportunities, at pain of risking interruption of some EU financial assistance.

8. Control and enforcement

The new policy requires establishment of an EU framework for control, inspection and enforcement, and seeks to promote cooperation to identify the most effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

9. Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

The new policy strengthens the role of European Fisheries Control Agency in combating IUU fishing and promoting agreements with third countries to combat IUU fishing.

10. Fish Stock Recovery Areas

The new policy encourages EU countries to give additional protection to spawning grounds and sensitive areas where there is evidence of many fish below minimum conservation size

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